Story by Catherine Morrison
Photos by Mike Puzzanghera
BOSTON — A spot in the championship game was on the line for Northeastern as they faced the University of Connecticut on Wednesday afternoon at Matthews Arena. Northeastern, as the newly minted top-ranked team in the nation, was the favorite. UConn was the underdog after upsetting nationally ranked Boston College for their spot in the semifinals.
The match of the Huskies was bound to be tense, and neither team disappointed. UConn battled hard, but a late shorthanded goal gave the Huskies a dramatic 2–1 win.
UConn (9–10–1) came out strong in the first period with a great shot by Danika Pasqua that led to Husky goaltender Aerin Frankel flipping head over heels to make the save. Northeastern (19–1–1) battled UConn for control of the puck, but shot only twice in the first fifteen minutes.
Northeastern’s luck appeared to change after a timeout at the five-minute mark, as the first line came out firing at freshman goaltender Tia Chan. Chloé Aurard gained the puck, skated around the back of the net, and dished to Alina Mueller in front. With ten seconds left in the period, Mueller tapped it in for the first goal of the night.
Once Northeastern gets a goal, it’s often over for their opponent. The Huskies like to pile the goals on, as they did in their 7–0 quarterfinal win over New Hampshire. But the other Huskies weren’t about to give up so easily.
The opening of the second period resembled the opening of the first, with the puck not spending extended time in either offensive zone. Northeastern looked like they were about to get an insurance goal when Aurard appeared to shoot the puck past Chan, sending the red goal light flaring. But after a few seconds, the light turned off, signaling the puck hadn’t quite made it and keeping the score at 1–0.
A couple minutes later, UConn retaliated with one of their own when Coryn Tormala sent what looked like a pass to the net from the back corner that bounced off Aerin Frankel and tied the score 1–1.
“I think she wished she had that first one back, but when I look back at this year, that was that was the first goal that I say ‘Oh, you know, she should have had it.’”
Northeastern stayed in their offensive zone for much of the rest of the period but couldn’t get anything past Chan.
As the seconds trickled down in the third period, it began to seem like overtime was on the horizon. With five minutes left of regulation, Northeastern’s Brooke Hobson slammed Taylor Wabick into the boards, sending Wabick onto the ice and Northeastern head coach Dave Flint into apoplexy. Wabick left the ice of her own accord and Hobson earned a two-minute penalty for boarding.
If Northeastern were any other team, hope might have been lost. But Northeastern has an elite penalty kill unit and was prepared to fight until the end. Thirty seconds into the penalty kill, two-time-defending Hockey East Defenseman of the Year Skylar Fontaine dished to Aurard, who dumped it in for the win.
“They were lining up for the face off and I just had this feeling in the back of my head, we got a really good chance of scoring a goal here,” Flint recalled. “Anytime Alina, Chloé, and Skylar are on the penalty kill and all on the ice, I like our chances of scoring a goal if the other team turns a puck over.”
UConn pulled Chan with two minutes left, hoping to get something going with an extra forward. But they were stymied by the home Huskies and only narrowly avoided two empty-net goals by Mueller.
“It’s okay for us to have some of those games,” Flint said, “to grind out games and compete, battle and have some adversity and then come out on the winning end, because that makes us a better team.”
Northeastern will play for their fourth consecutive Hockey East Championship on Saturday night. Their foe is No. 9 Providence, who the Huskies swept in three regular-season matches. WRBB will call that game live from Matthews Arena, with coverage beginning at 6:50 PM Eastern.